By Daniel Edu
The Digital Health Interoperability Network (DHIN), an Abuja-based NGO, has expressed its willingness to collaborate with the Federal Government to enhance the digital healthcare system in Nigeria. The organization made this commitment during a roundtable discussion on ‘Unique Identifiers for Management of Cross-Institutional Duplicate Health Records’ held in Abuja.
Mr. Emeka Chukwu, a Digital Health Consultant and Co-Convener of DHIN, highlighted the need for practical solutions to ensure interoperability in Nigeria’s healthcare system, drawing parallels with the successful practices in the banking sector. He emphasized the importance of building interoperable systems across multiple healthcare organizations, similar to the Nigeria Inter-bank Settlement System (NIBSS) in the banking sector. Chukwu explained that strengthening the healthcare system through interoperability could benefit rural areas, increase access to healthcare facilities, reduce costs, eliminate duplicate records, prevent fraud, and streamline the system.
Mrs. Vivian Okafor, Head of the E-Health Division at the Federal Ministry of Health, emphasized the importance of digitizing healthcare services to achieve universal health coverage, particularly in rural areas. She discussed the ministry’s efforts to digitize Federal Tertiary Institutions and encouraged states and local health levels to follow suit. Okafor identified challenges such as inconsistent power supply, technological gaps, and internet limitations, which need to be addressed to extend digital services to rural areas.
Mr. Emmanuel Edet, the Ag Director Standards Guidelines/Frameworks at the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), expressed NITDA’s interest in promoting the use of digital technology in healthcare delivery. He highlighted the agency’s role in encouraging the development of the digital economy in Nigeria and acknowledged the potential benefits of digital technology in the healthcare sector.
Participants at the forum included public health professionals, digital health and software developers, doctors, stakeholders in the health sector, health IT innovators, data scientists, policymakers, and regulators. DHIN, the organizing NGO, focuses on promoting open standards, data integrity, and privacy protection, with a goal to transform healthcare into a patient-centered experience enabled by seamless data flow, accurate diagnoses, personalized treatments, and proactive wellness management.